Most Sentimental Attractions in the Disney Parks

A couple weeks ago we offered a collaborative post of the Best Website for Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation. It was so much fun gathering members the cast members of the MouseQuest around the virtual table that we decided to do it again. This time we are going to talk about our most sentimental attractions in the Disney Parks. These are the attractions you have to experience EVERY SINGLE TIME you are in the parks. As you will see, they mean something different to each of us for many different reasons such as, family memories, the legacy of Walt Disney, etc. Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review – Animator’s Palate

Written by: Amy Yacullo

LOCATION: Disney Cruise Line
THEME: Disney Animation

03-03-2015 Animators Palate5

Author’s Note: Sailing the high seas on the Disney Dream? Looking for a meal that will satisfy and entertain you? Then look no further than the Animator’s Palate! This restaurant is perfect for the whole family. Delicious food, fun surroundings, and a talking turtle make this spot one you won’t want to miss!! While both the Dream and the Fantasy feature this restaurant, there are major differences between the two. As this writer has only been on the Disney Dream, this article will pertain to the Disney Dream Animator’s Palate only.

03-03-2015 Animators Palate4When walking into the Animator’s Palate, you are greeted with the sights of light wood, bright colors, and familiar faces. The entrance to the restaurant is surrounded by walls featuring Disney characters in black and white sketches. I always make a point to take a picture posed next to my favorite little mermaid, Ariel, before we are seated. The corridor outside the restaurant can get a little crowded if you arrive right before or around the very beginning of your dinner seating, so I recommend taking an extra 5 or 10 minutes to get ready for dinner to avoid the rush.

03-03-2015 Animators PalateAs you arrive at your table, it’s hard to miss the Mickey-esque chairs or the signature paintbrush-shaped butter knife (which was so popular that it was added to the gift shops on the Dream and Fantasy, since quite a few of them ended up “walking away” from the dinner tables). All around you, there are shelves themed to look like the desk of a Disney animator. You’ll see pencils, markers, paintbrushes, even character maquettes!

03-03-2015 Animators Palate3The most prominent feature, however, is the big screen. On most nights, you’ll see a calming ocean scene, pulled right out of Finding Nemo. During your meal, you’ll be visited by everyone’s favorite far-out sea turtle, Crush! Crush actually interacts with the people in your section, so you may find him talking to you and you alone. Crush also likes to tell jokes and ask lots of questions, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing or explaining what exactly a bathing suit actually is.

My favorite part of the Animator’s Palate is the food (obviously). AP is the most relaxed of the Disney Dream’s restaurants, and the fare is American with some multi-cultural inspirations. While the menu has changed a bit since the last time I was on the ship, there are several items I can recommend.

Appetizers
Smoked Salmon Tartar
Black Truffe Pasta Purseittes
Sliced Serrano Ham with bread and Spanish Olives
Tomato Tarte

My favorite appetizer from days past was a shrimp and onion cheesecake—it was savory, but light, with amazing flavor. I’m bummed they got rid of it, but the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes more than make up for it! Anthony and I enjoy them so much that we totally ran down to the Animator’s Palate after our dinner at Remy just to get an order of them—SOOO good. I haven’t had any of the other appetizers, but based on the Purseittes, I’m sure they’re divine.

Soups and Salads
Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Arugulas and Curly Endive Salad

I love soup. In my opinion, soup is the perfect food, and let me tell you, these soups do not disappoint!! Even if you’re in the middle of the Bahamas, these soups will warm you from the inside out and make your taste buds nice and toasty.

Main Course
Pennette Bolognese
Seared Red Snapper
Lemon-Thyme Marinated All-Natural Chicken Breast
Herb-Crusted Veal Chop
Ginger Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin

Full disclosure: Anthony and I have not eaten entrees at Animator’s Palate since our honeymoon in April of 2012, so I have not tried any of the above options. However, I’m a steak girl, so that tenderloin sounds right up my alley. As with all Disney cruises, the food rarely disappoints, so I can’t imagine that these courses are anything but delectable.

Vegetarian Options
Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Zucchini, and Red Onion Salad
Potato, Celeriac, and Onion Gratin
Black Bean Chipotle Cakes

I’m not a vegetarian, but I’d totally eat all of these, especially the Gratin. They all sound fantastic.

Lighter Note Offerings
Jumbo Shrimp Salad
Grilled Grain-Fed Sirloin Steak
Slow Roasted Breast of Chicken
Oven Baked Fillet of Salmon

All fantastic options for those who have certain dietary restrictions. I would eat these in a heartbeat, even though I’m not the biggest fan of salmon.

Dessert
Sweet Temptations—a trio of crunch walnut cake, pinapple financier, and lemon mousse
Crunchy Walnut Cake
Pinapple Financier
Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake
Cookies and Cream Sundae
Lemon Mousse with mango coulis and dark chocoalte
Dense Chocolate Cake

I’m honestly not much of a dessert person, but you could put any of these in front of me and I’d totally go to town on them. If I had to choose right now though, I’m really feeling that lemon mousse. Yum!

My favorite night to visit the Animator’s Palate is definitely Pirate Night. While the menu is the standard Pirate fare across all three restaurants, Animator’s Palate is the most fun to be in for one reason: you know those screens I mentioned earlier? On Pirate Night, those screens feature concept art for all things that relate to Disney and Pirates. I loved taking pictures of the art from the Pirates of the Caribbean—it was great to see the concept changes for the ships used in the movies. It was also interesting to compare the POTC movie and ride concepts. My favorite, however, is seeing the concept art from the under-appreciated Treasure Planet. This particular concept art provides stunning visuals which absolutely take my breath away. If you haven’t seen Treasure Planet, you’re really missing out.

Anthony and I love the Animator’s Palate. We know that on Animator’s Palate night, we’re in for a great meal. We love the casual atmosphere and fun that you just don’t get in the Royal Palace or the Enchanted Garden. The Animator’s Palate is the one restaurant that is on all four Disney ships, albeit in different forms, so clearly, we’re not the only ones who feel that way. If you’re looking for a meal that’ll satisfy your taste buds and your eyes as well as your sense of whimsy, then look no further than the Animator’s Palate.

Amy is a 20-something Disney fanatic living with her Disney Prince in New Jersey. She has dedicated her life to all things Disney and is debating naming her first child Ariel. When not blogging, she likes playing video games, reading, and snuggling with her Disney-named cats. You can find her online at www.shortfatandsassy.com.

Animator's Palate

Upgrading the World Showcase

Written by Amy Yacullo

Epcot has long overtaken Magic Kingdom as my favorite park at Walt Disney World, and the World Showcase is the main reason for my love. I adore the World Showcase. In my mind, there is no better way to spend an afternoon than eating and drinking around the world (and I have the waistline to prove it!). That said, I often spend quite a bit of time wondering what’s “missing” from the WS. I don’t necessarily love all of the countries in World Showcase—I don’t hate any of the countries, but everyone has their favorite, must-do pavilion (Morocco, I’m looking at you!), and everyone has one that they can say, “Eh, no thanks,” and skip without remorse (what’s up, America?).

I’ve read that the World Showcase has room for at least 6 more pavilions (and depending on who you ask, there’s room for as many as 10 more). As I was falling asleep last night, I thought to myself, “If Disney were to add a few more countries to the World Showcase, what would I like to see?”

Please note, my choices are not meant to replace any of the current countries; these are just countries (and, let’s be honest, I’m talking mostly about food here) that I’d like to see represented in the World Showcase alongside the current lineup. A few of my choices may be considered “controversial,” but please keep in mind, I chose them because of the culture and food, not because of politics.

Greece
I would absolutely love to see Greece represented in the World Showcase. Greece has such a rich cultural heritage that there would be plenty of opportunity to create an attraction based on the Greek Pantheon (a Hercules meet-and-greet opportunity perhaps?). Disney could also go the educational route and create something educational that outlines the Greek ideas of education and politics. And can you imagine the food opportunities?! Gyros! Baklava! Moussaka! The list goes on and on!! I’d love to see Greece hanging out next to Italy, representing the northern Mediterranean countries.

Israel
Representing the southern Mediterranean, I’d adore an Israel pavilion. I know this pavilion was originally supposed to be in the World Showcase, but due to multiple circumstances, Israel’s only representation thusfar was in the Millennium Village. Having spent some time in Israel, I know that there are tons of things that could be featured in this pavilion. It would be fascinating to learn about the history of the country from a non-religious viewpoint (although due to politics in the region, it may be difficult). Israel is such a breathtaking country with so much to see—a circlevision film would not be remiss here. It would also be fascinating to explore all of the food options Israel has to offer—Kosher and Halal cuisines spring to mind (which would be a lovely option for those guests who maintain a Kosher/Halal diet).

India
Moving on to Asia, I can’t help but think that India would be a perfect addition to the Showcase. Once again, food reigns supreme in my mind: there are at least 37 distinct regional cuisines in the country, so there are plenty of options—it wouldn’t be hard to represent 5 or 6. India is the second most populated country in the world, rich in culture and with lots to offer. Can you imagine if there were an Indian music and dance troupe that performed daily, or a whole exhibit on Bollywood films?! It would be incredible!!

Thailand
Thailand is another wonderful locale that has a great food profile. I’d love to be able to grab some Tom Kha or Pad Thai while strolling around the Lagoon. Fans of spicy food would enjoy it too! Thailand is a country that I don’t know much about (other than food), so I don’t know what the attraction would be here, but I’m sure it’d be amazing—language, dance, and music abound!

Russia
Moving North on the Asian continent, how about we get a little love for Russia? Russia has produced so many prolific artists; I’d love to see an attraction based around the music, dance, and literature of the region. And how awesome would an attraction based on the Tsars of Russia be? Anastasia may not have been a Disney movie, but there was some gorgeous art and fashion represented! While the food may be a little heavy for the Florida heat, I’m sure this pavilion would be the hottest spot in town on those “chilly” winter nights (sorry Floridians, but I have to giggle at you all complaining that 50 degrees is cold—it’s not cold until your hair freezes when you walk to your car in the morning after showering!). Caviar and vodka would be a nice addition too, don’t you think?

Polynesia
Moving East, let’s go to Polynesia! Now, as a fan of the Polynesian Resort, I’d love to see Polynesia represented in the World Showcase. While it may be a bit redundant to have a resort AND country in the World Showcase, having another locale to get some Dole Whip wouldn’t be remiss, would it? To be fair, the fire-twirling will always belong to the Luau at the Poly, but a Moana meet and greet might be fun (based on the success of the movie, of course). And come on, who doesn’t love a little roast pig in their life? Heck, maybe we can throw in a sponsorship from Hormel and feature an all-SPAM menu!!

Chile
As we completing our circumnavigation of the globe, we land in South America. Now, I know we have the Mexico pavilion featuring our buddies the Three Caballeros, but it would be so nice to see Chile represented on its own. I feel like we’ve kind of lumped South America in with the Mexico pavilion, and that doesn’t seem right to me—Mexico isn’t even in South America!! As with all of the previously mentioned countries, there’s a rich history of music and dance here. I, for one, would love to see an exhibit on the national sport of Chile—rodeo!! And, of course, the food will be delicious—can you just imagine relaxing and enjoying an Asado cooked steak accompanied by a nice Chilean wine? So good!!
Our world is such an incredible place, with so many different kinds of culture and cuisine. I think a few additions to the World Showcase would be a great way to revitalize Epcot. Who knows, maybe Disney will see this post and run with it!

So there you go! There are my seven additions I think would make the World Showcase even better than it already is. Do you agree with my choices? Do you think I missed anything? Sound off on Twitter using the hashtag #WorldShowcaseAdditions!!

Amy is a 20-something Disney fanatic living with her Disney Prince in New Jersey. She has dedicated her life to all things Disney and is debating naming her first child Ariel. When not blogging, she likes playing video games, reading, and snuggling with her Disney-named cats. You can find her online at www.shortfatandsassy.com

How to Have an At-Home Disney Wedding

Written by: Amy Yacullo

You’re getting married!! Congratulations!! You’ve dreamed of this day all your life—going to Disney, getting married in front of the castle, riding in Cinderella’s Coach, taking your fireworks cruise, paying the bill… wait, what?! All that costs how much? Suddenly, your dreams of a Disney wedding are shattered.

Never fear, the Disney Wedding Bloggess is here!! I had two weddings; one in Disney and one in my home state of Connecticut. My goal with the CT wedding was to bring as much Disney to the event as possible without it being an in-your-face Disney-fest. I feel (and have been told) that I succeeded quite beautifully in my goal and now, dear reader, I’d like to show you how I did it. Whether you’re looking to have an all-out Disney extravaganza or just a few nods to Disney here and there, follow these tips and you’re sure to have an amazing Disney-style wedding.

COLORS

Color pallett

The most basic (and easiest) way to evoke Disney in your wedding is to choose colors that represent “Disney.” Whether it be a particular character, ride, resort, or other aspect of Disney, color is an amazing way to subtly hinting at your favorite Disney thing. For my CT wedding, I chose the colors red, yellow, white, and black. Who do those remind you of? Mickey Mouse, of course!! You could easily use color to evoke your favorite Princess (blue and silver for Cinderella, purple and yellow for Rapunzel, red, green, and purple for Ariel…the list goes on and on…) or place (silver and blue can be used to represent Cinderella Castle, pastels fall under Small World territory, burgundy, gold, and black can take you to the Tower of Terror…). You can then use those colors everywhere—your bridesmaid’s dresses, the groomsmen’s ties, tablecloths, napkins, chair ties…the possibilities are truly endless!!

CEREMONY

This is probably the easiest of all—include Disney quotes and references in your ceremony. The bridesmaids walked down the aisle to “Behind the Waterfall “ from the now-defunct Wonders of Life pavilion soundtrack. I walked down to “Waiting for the Lights” from Rapunzel. Our recessional was “Married Life” from UP. There are so many pieces of music that Disney has to offer; the possibilities are literally endless!! And when anyone mentions Disney, the phrase “Happily Ever After” springs to mind– that’s an easy one to add to the end of the ceremony. You can also have a reading of a Disney song—my sister read the lyrics of “One Song” from Snow White during our ceremony. Throw in a quote from your favorite Disney movie that’s meaningful to you. You can easily come up with plenty of ideas just by flipping through a Disney book or doing a quick Internet search.

PICTURES

PROPS!! Props are the easiest and best way to bring Disney to your Floralpictures. Whether you want to go bold and use an ear hat, include a pair of Disney lapel pins, or go subtle and have the groomsmen wear Disney socks and ties, you can do whatever your heart desires! You can even go as far as to have your florist make a hidden Mickey out of pearls and contact Disney floral and purchase some Swarovski crystal Mickey heads to include in your Mickey-inspired bouquet….

The best part is, a lot of Disney touches can go unnoticed to the untrained eye, so you don’t have to worry about the pictures looking “childish” or “tacky” (which shouldn’t really matter because if they make you happy, then your pictures are perfect and beautiful).

FOOD 

This one might be a little tricky depending on your caterer, but I’m sure you can work with them if there’s something you want badly. Beer cheese soup shooters (to evoke Le Cellier steakhouse) sound like an awesome passes appetizer, don’t they? How about some banana pudding to represent your new ‘Ohana? Maybe you want to have a popcorn machine and some fresh baked cookies to make your venue smell like Main Street, U.S.A.?

THE CAKE(S)

 By far, my cakes were my favorite Disney touches at our wedding. First things first: your cake topper. You can find pre-made Disney wedding cake toppers online—everything from beautiful Lenox pieces to lovingly homemade Disney toppers are out there. You can buy the bride and groom ear hat ornaments or Vinylmations and use those. You can even go so far as to find an amazing artist who will custom-paint a pair of blank Vinylmation characters to look like you and your partner…

Vinylmations

As for designs on the cake, you can have your baker write “And they lived happily ever after” on the tiers, have a hidden Mickey in the back, or do what I asked my baker to do and substitute Mickey heads for a typical Swiss Dot pattern.

Wedding Cake

And for your groom, you can get a groom’s cake that pays homage to his favorite Disney park, ride, movie, or character.

Grooms Cake

RECEPTION

Wine glassesA great reception starts with great music—who needs the cha-cha slide? Have your first dance to Beauty and the Beast or shake your groove thang to “Stand Out” from A Goofy Movie. Once again, the possibilities are truly endless!!

 Grab a pair of champagne flutes with Mickey and Minnie (or another favorite Disney couple) on them—you can get those easily from Arribas Bros on Main Street USA (or the internet) or from someone online.

Your guestbook, centerpieces, and favors can all be Disney themed too!! Get a Disney autograph book or two and have your guests sign those instead of the typical guest book. You can even get a few of the big, 9” Vinylmations and have your guests sign those in different colored sharpie markers! Name each table after a Disney movie or character. You can theme the centerpieces to each table, or they can match your overall color scheme. And for favors? How about some Vinylmation shaped soaps (easily found online) or Mickey head shaped chocolates?

 At the end of the day, your wedding will be amazing no matter what. Regardless of if you use every suggestion here or if you only use one or two, the most important part of your Disney wedding is love. Celebrate your love with the people you love most in the world—that’s what a wedding is all about. It will be a magical day, I promise.

Cut cake

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Amy is a 20-something Disney fanatic living with her Disney Prince in New Jersey. She has dedicated her life to all things Disney and is debating naming her first child Ariel. When not blogging, she likes playing video games, reading, and snuggling with her Disney-named cats. You can find her online at www.shortfatandsassy.com.

Wedding pictures in this post taken by Dana Lane of Dana Lane Photography.

Relaxing on the High Seas

Written By: Amy Yacullo

When Anthony and I booked our honeymoon on the Disney Dream, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. Neither one of us had ever cruised before, so we wanted to do anything and everything we could in our short, 4-day Bahamian cruise. However, we were also on a tight budget and wanted to spend a lot of time together relaxing—after all, it was our honeymoon!!

For me, relaxation=spas and pampering. During the booking process, I took a peek at what the Senses Spa offered. When I checked out the “menu” I was shocked at the astronomical prices—$70 for a pedicure? Get real!! There was no way I was going to shell out that much for something I could get done at the mall for a fraction of the price—sure, this was a special occasion and yes, it was Disney cruise, but I knew I’d already have a great pedicure for my wedding. The costs of the massages were even higher, so I quickly put the idea of a honeymoon spa treatment out of my mind.

The day we arrived at the ship was a flurry of activity, from waking up and packing our bags, to getting on the bus and riding to Port Canaveral, to checking in and waiting to board, to lunch at Cabana’s, the Spa was merely a blip on the radar of my mind. I knew where it was, but I also knew how much it cost, so I stayed away (even though they offered a complimentary spa tour with possible giveaways). I didn’t want to tempt myself.

Our room was on Deck 7 at the front of the ship, so we frequently took the forward elevators up to Deck 11 to get to Cabanas or to enjoy the Quiet Pool (which meant we were walking by the spa every time). Shortly after the Sail Away party, Anthony and I were headed back to our room when I said, “Hey, let’s check out the spa since we’re walking past. I don’t intend on booking anything, but I’d just like to see it.” The textured pebble flooring outside the spa had caught my attention and after all, we didn’t know when we were going to be on another cruise, so I figured it was worth a peek.

We walked into Senses and were greeted warmly. The staff were anxious to give us a tour, so we decided “What the heck, let’s just do it, it’s free.” They started with the salon, which we weren’t too interested in (we’d both gotten our hair cut prior to the wedding, and there was no way I was going to book any mani/pedis this trip) and then moved on to the fitness center—anyone who knows me will tell you that there was no way in hell I was going to exercise on my honeymoon. We were getting antsy to leave when the spa attendant brought us to what turned out to be our favorite part of the cruise: the Rainforest Room.

rainforestroom

The most important aspect of the Rainforest Room is that there’s no one to give you treatments—it’s a completely self-guided experience, which is nice if you want spa relaxation without getting a massage or other treatment (or paying treatment prices!). My husband doesn’t like the idea of someone he doesn’t know touching him in the “intimate” way a massage necessitates, so the Rainforest Room was a great way for him to enjoy some much-needed relaxation. Occasionally you will see an attendant come in and refresh the towel stock or refill the flavored water that is provided, but other than that, you’re on your own.

You’ll get a complimentary robe every time you go to the spa and put it in the laundry before you leave. You have to turn in your room key to get the robe and the key fob that unlocks the Rainforest Room door; I like that because it means I don’t have to worry about losing my room key while I’m trying to relax. The only things you need to bring with you are a pair of flip-flops, a bathing suit, and (if you wish) a book. There are lockers available, but they are shared with the fitness area, so they can fill up quickly depending on where you go. There are also showers in the locker room with lovely complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body wash that are completely different than the ones offered in-room and are absolutely amazing.

When you first enter, you walk into one three rooms that encompass the Rainforest Room. There’s calming music and a lovely water feature right when you walk in, which promotes a sense of calm right off the bat. On the right, there is a beverage station with flavored water (lemon and cucumber, which are both very delicious and very refreshing) and a large selection of teas and some extra towels. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll notice that the tiles have clouds printed on them to make it look like you’re gazing at uninterrupted sky.

To the left are four different themed showers, each with their own light effects, sounds, and scents (which aren’t overpowering; I actually haven’t ever noticed a scent coming out of any of them). Each shower has three water cycle types (things like “Caribbean Storm” and “Siberian Night”) with varying temperatures of water—I personally found most of them to be too cold, but that’s a personal preference.

showers

Past the showers are 3 different kinds of saunas: a Hamam (Turkish steam bath with beautiful marble walls and benches and lovely aromatherapy), a Caldarium (your standard steam room) and a Laconium (dry sauna) with a window looking out to sea. My favorite is the Hamam—it’s the perfect mixture of warm steam and heat; it isn’t suffocating and dry, but it doesn’t make you soaking wet either. I recommend bringing an extra towel into the Hamam to sit on, as the marble seats and floor get very, very hot.

Through another set of doors is the lounge room. This room as 10 lounge chairs with a lovely view of the ocean (through another set of glass doors). They’re made of ceramic tiles, so you can’t adjust them, but they are gently heated and all feature a book light and a view of the ocean. I’ve never used one, but I’ve seen plenty of happy customers (including a sleeper or two).

rainforest2

Through a final set of doors is the last large room—the hot tub room. Each hot tub fits 2 people and both of them look out to sea. The room has a few open (but barred) windows, so you can hear the ocean and seagulls—the first time I went in there, I thought it was a soundtrack being played over speakers, and then I realized that it was real! I love that the windows are open to the sea, which allows for a light breeze to come through the room. There are signs in the area that ask that you keep your soaks to a 15 minute max to allow other spa-goers the chance to enjoy, but we’ve never encountered any other guests waiting for their turn—although Goofy did visit us one day (all dressed up in his coat and tails) and tried to get in the hot tub with us!

hottubs

The cost for all of this bliss? $16 a day. They also offer a length of cruise pass—I don’t know what the individual price is, but for couples it was $99 (for a 4 day cruise). There’s also a “deluxe” package available that includes your choice of scented scrub to use in the Hamam, but we’ve never purchased it; I believe it’s $120 for couples (again, I don’t know the individual price). I would recommend that you go to the Senses Spa and ask about pricing, because as with everything else in life, it’s always subject to change.

The best part is that you can pay for as many days as you want—only want to go on your sea day? That’s totally fine! Want to go every day of your cruise? You can do that too!!

We have never experienced a problem with over-crowding –I’m not sure if there are only a limited amount of passes available per day or if people just don’t know about it (either way, I’m not complaining!). The Rainforest Room is open during Spa hours, so you can go early in the morning, later in the day, or in the evening if you want; you can even pop in and out at your leisure throughout the day.

For $16 a day, there is absolutely no question in my mind that the Rainforest Room is worth every penny. There is nothing like having a quiet area away from all the action to relax, rewind, and rejuvenate. Plus, it’s one of the only places my husband will truly relax—he doesn’t like the idea of a stranger massaging him, so the Rainforest Room allows him to unwind and spend time relaxing with only his thoughts and me—you can’t argue with that! We now budget for the experience every time we plan a Disney cruise and so far, it’s been one of the best uses of our time and money.

If you’re looking for that “one more thing” on your Disney cruise that will push it from “great” to “amazing,” I definitely encourage you to consider the Rainforest Room—once you walk through those doors, I can almost guarantee that you’ll never want to leave.